• Incoming Student FAQ

    How do I audition for CU Orchestras?

    Please visit our “Auditions” page and scroll down to the audition guide! If you can't find the answer to your questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us!


    Will any information Zoom calls be held?

    🌟 Saturday, August 6th, at 2 p.m. EDT

    • A final information session for all students, new and returning! We'll be joined by our new CSO director, Guillaume Pirard!
    • Click here for the Zoom link!


    What's the difference between CSO and CCO?

    CSO, the Cornell Symphony Orchestra, consists of approximately eighty string, wind, and percussion musicians and tackles a wide breadth of symphonic repertoire. Last year, CSO performed pieces ranging from Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 to Simon’s “Amen” and Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.” For the upcoming academic year, CSO will meet on Tuesdays from 4:45 p.m. to 6:25 p.m. and Thursdays from 4:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.


    CCO, the Cornell Chamber Orchestra, consists of approximately thirty players and performs incredible string repertoire. Some of our repertoire from the previous year includes Piazzola’s Adios Nonino, Elgar’s Serenade, and three Baroque operas! For the upcoming academic year, CCO will meet on Mondays from 4:45 p.m. to 6:25 p.m. and Wednesdays from 4:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.


    Please note that both ensembles are of equal quality, and their repertoire is similarly challenging and rewarding — you can’t go wrong either way!


    How do orchestra credits work?

    CSO is 1 credit, while CCO is 1-2 credits. These credits can be taken for a letter grade or S/U (pass/fail).


    You can earn the second credit in CCO by doing written assignments, such as concert evaluations. These written assignments are not included within the CSO curriculum; however, similar written assignments have been used as makeup assignments for absences.


    Credits earned by enrolling in orchestra as a class do count towards your academic credit limit. They also count towards the performance credit for a music major or minor!


    What does being an orchestra student look like?

    You’ll attend two rehearsals per week — Mon/Wed for CCO and Tues/Thurs for CSO — and rehearsal location (Lincoln Hall, Barnes Hall, or Bailey Hall) will vary according to your ensemble.


    You'll also perform two concerts per semester in Bailey Hall, with a dress rehearsal accompanying each one. Concert attire is all black with a splash of red (to show Cornell spirit), like on a tie or headband. Please note that the concert black dress code does not permit white dress shirts!


    Every two years or so, the ensembles go on an international tour during winter break. We went to Taiwan in 2019! Unfortunately, the pandemic has placed a hold on these events, and the prospect of having an international tour this year is still up in the air. We'll keep you posted about it.


    Please note that attendance at all rehearsals for your ensemble is mandatory, especially during concert week! If you are sick or have a prelim exam, you may be granted an excused absence. Excused absences are also granted for COVID or other sickness related absences. There is no homework for orchestra, so grading is based solely on attendance! For missed rehearsals, late arrivals, or early departures, students will have to submit a makeup assignment.


    More detailed information regarding repertoire, rehearsal schedule, and more will be available in the class syllabi — these syllabi will be made available on Canvas after you enroll!


    Where can I go to practice?

    Lincoln Hall offers several practice rooms for your use! Members of the Cornell Orchestras have 24/7 access to Lincoln Hall and the practice rooms inside, and we’ll have a warmup room reserved for everyone during auditions. For more details about practice rooms, please visit this link!


    There are also a few pianos and practice rooms located around some dorms, including JAM on North Campus and Keeton, Bethe, and Rose Houses on West Campus.


    Where can I store my instrument?

    You can rent a locker in the basement of Lincoln Hall. Lincoln offers three different sizes of lockers: small (fits smaller instruments, like violins), medium (fits instruments like horns), and large (fits taller instruments, like cellos, and can be shared between two students). You can contact the Lincoln Hall front office to get on the locker rental waiting list or take a look at the informational flyers that will be posted up and around the lockers towards the beginning of the semester. There is a small rental fee of $15 to rent a locker.


    Note that these lockers are limited, especially for larger instruments, and are often offered first to students enrolled in music department credits. Click this link for more information.


    Are there any other music opportunities at Cornell?

    Yes! You can join a private studio with your instrument professor. You can reach out to these professors towards the beginning of the semester. If you audition for orchestra, you'll likely meet your instrument professor during your audition, who will be one of your audition judges. Some professors also send out studio audition information to email addresses gathered from the orchestra audition form, so keep an eye out for that.


    The music department holds an annual concerto competition in December, and the winner of the competition performs with CSO in a spring semester concert! Information from the previous competition can be found on this page, and we'll update it for the upcoming academic year soon!


    The music department also offers a chamber music program, which is coordinated by faculty member Juliana Pepinsky. This program involves a separate audition — reach out to either of these coordinators for more information. You can join the program with a pre-existing or intended ensemble with your friends, or you'll be assigned to a chamber ensemble based on your ability and instrument.


    Want to know more? Click this link for more information.


    What kind of a community will I find in the orchestras?

    This question is probably the hardest to answer — it’s hard to condense our group into just a few things — but I can promise you that we’re super friendly and will be a family by the end of the year!


    To help everyone get to know each other, the board organizes social events throughout the year! We hold big-little meetups where new members can pair up with orchestra veterans and learn about classes to take, places to see, and more! We also hold social events like bowling and trivia night, where you can compete fiercely with your fellow members; movie night, where you can chill with friends; and winter formal and spring banquet, where you can celebrate an incredible semester of making music with the people who made it all happen! Of course, we’re always open to suggestions as well.


    Importantly, the board is here to support you every step of the way! We’re always ready to answer questions about the orchestras and Cornell, and we’d love to grab a meal with you whenever we can! Just reach out to one of us listed here.


    I still have more questions!

    Feel free to reach out to our conductor, Kirsten Marshall, or any of the board members. We'd be happy to help you!